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The Pope’s New Cardinals — More Roman Than Catholic?

January 9th, 2012
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Interesting interpretation of Pope Benedict’s latest appointments to the College of Cardinals. Seems to me that the problem with the Roman Catholic church has always been it is more Roman than Catholic, so it should come as no surprise that PB XVI wants to keep it that way. But this article, obviously, doesn’t understand just how profound that observation, theologically, really is, and is whining more about geography than theology. Obviously, is is extremely irritating, to say the least, to the liberals in the Catholic Church who want to see it conform to the Western modernist theological agenda. These appointments will go a long way toward preventing that from happening.

Pope Benedict’s cardinals: more Roman, less ‘catholic’

ENI-12-0011

By David Gibson — ENInews/RNS

9 January (ENInews)–Pope Benedict XVI’s announcement on 6 January of 22 new cardinals shows that he is continuing a pattern of stacking the College of Cardinals with Europeans (mainly Italians) and with leaders of the Roman curia, the papal bureaucracy whose officials are often considered more conservative than prelates in dioceses around the world.

This trend goes against the push by Benedict’s predecessors, notably the late John Paul II, to “internationalize” the College of Cardinals and make it more representative of the global church, Religion News Service reports.

It also runs counter to the inexorable demographics of the church, which shows the number of Catholics growing in places like Africa, Asia, and Latin America, even as the faith barely treads water in North America and declines in Europe. The 22 churchmen will be installed at a Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome on 18 February.

“This suggests an upside-down church,” Robert Mickens, Vatican correspondent for The Tablet, a Catholic weekly in London, said of the pope’s appointments. “It doesn’t reflect where the church is going.”

The numbers tell the story. Since Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected pope in April 2005, his three batches of new cardinals have favored Europeans and those who work with him in Rome over bishops from other countries.

Eighteen of the 22 cardinals in this latest round of appointments are under the age of 80 and thus eligible to vote in the conclave, or gathering, that elects a pope. (The red hats given to the four octogenarians are the church equivalent of lifetime achievement awards.) Of those 18 new electors, seven are Italians, five others are from Europe, and a total of 10 are Vatican officials.

Just three of the new cardinals — from Brazil, Hong Kong and India — are from outside the West, and in the biggest surprise, none are from Africa, where the church is experiencing its greatest growth, followed by Asia. Half of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics live in the Americas.

That means Italians will form the largest national block and account for one-quarter of the 126 cardinal-electors (several will age out this year), up from 16.5 percent in 2005. In addition, 35 percent of the cardinal-electors will come from the Roman curia — up from less than a quarter when Benedict was elected in 2005.

John Paul II, who was Polish and the first non-Italian pontiff in 450 years when he was elected in 1978, deliberately sought to internationalize the College of Cardinals and the Roman curia, though he also brought in a number of fellow Poles to help run his administration.

Why has Benedict largely reversed that trend? Vatican-watcher John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter noted that before he was elected pope, Ratzinger spent nearly 25 years working in Rome and his appointments are “perhaps a product of his comfort level with Italian ecclesial culture.”

The other major factor is that Benedict is at heart an Old World, old-fashioned Bavarian Catholic, and both he and the cardinals who elected him believe that Europe remains the birthplace of Catholic culture. In that view, Benedict represents the best — and perhaps last — chance to restore that culture and use it to evangelize the rest of the world.

But in light of this latest round of cardinal appointments, and given growing concerns about Benedict’s health — he turns 85 in April — this set of electors may well be the men who eventually choose Benedict’s successor. Their numbers suggest they may be just as likely to look to Europe once again rather than to the future church in the global South.

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Categories: Roman Catholicism
  1. Rev. David Likeness
    January 9th, 2012 at 16:06 | #1

    Until 1945 the College of Cardinals were selected
    primarily from Italy. Here are some statistics:
    1939 55 percent of Cardinals from Italy
    1963 35 percent from Italy
    1978 23 percent from Italy
    2005 17 percent from Italy
    2012 25 percent from Italy
    Benedict XVI is reversing a trend to
    solidify his theological views.

  2. Joanne
    January 9th, 2012 at 19:34 | #2

    I’ve mentioned this before, but there are Romans and their are Romans. The Romans we are most aware of today are the ones who took the municiple see of the city of Rome (a nonimperial entity since the first split of the Empire), and with the aid of a German Empire, became a potent political organization in the western rump of the Empire. They have no legitimacy as Imperial Romans. Since Karl der Grosser in 800, the Municiple Roman Pope has no longer been the representative of the Roman Emperors in the West.

    If we seek the official church of the Roman Empire and the Christian Roman Imperors’ ecclesiastical representatives, look to the capital of the Empire at Contantinople and at every one of his churches that has the Imperial double-headed eagle prominently displayed on the church buildnig.

    Interestingly, the western rump church has envied and coveted an Emperor of their own, always assuming that they would own the Emperor. The Imperial church envied and coveted the west in not having constant Imperial cooption of Ecclesiastical perogative, such as it was in Constantinople where Divine Imperial perogative always took precedence.

    Meanwhile, back west, the newly enobled German barbarians in the Welf and Waiblingen tug of war, were giving the popes hell as both fought for the Imperial ideal that would put them on the top of the heap. I think the 1525 sack of Rome by Charles the V, a Hapsburg, was pretty much a nail in the coffin of the western church’s campaign to win the power play against the German Kaisers.

    Unless you’re really into the history of the first 1000 years of the church or you love ecclesiastical politics, you’re asking why do we have to go so far back to get any context for what happens when the Municiple Romans behave so Imperially. They never give up, do they? As long as they can afford bright red hats, I guess the mawking of Imperial stature will continue. But, remember, they have no legitimate right to imperial titles nor manner of dress. Speaking Imperially, the municiple Romans are frauds when they assume imperial mores.

    If you think that Imperialism (not the Marxian kind) doesn’t matter to the Municiple see in Rome, mention this idea of ilegitmacy to your favorite RC, and get your ears boxed in.

  3. Terry Maher (Past Elder)
    January 10th, 2012 at 00:43 | #3

    What is really going to count — I say as a veteran, or more accurately, survivor, of Rome — is not the nationality of the College of Cardinals but their ages. So far, every one of the popes since Vatican II has his roots and priestly formation prior to Vatican II, every one was at Vatican II. Which ended 40 some years ago so this can’t go on forever. Benedict will likely be either the last, or next to last, of his kind.

    It is very hard to describe the difference this makes to those who have no internal experience of the RCC. The closest analogue I can find is immigration: the difference between the culture and world-view of those raised in the old country who came to the new, and those raised in the new entirely. Even the most dedicated to their background do not evidence or manifest it in the same way.

    To put it in an example: those who grew up in Little Italy here in Omaha are not Italian in the same way those who grew up in Italy are Italian.

    This will happen regardless of which version of Vatican II the next pope holds, because all versions were fashioned by those raised pre-Vatican II. And once the native born and raised Vatican II population reigns, then you will see what the RCC going forward will be.

    And that future, though this a prediction of future events rather than a description of current ones as above, I submit will too follow the immigration model. To return to the example I used — in Little Italy now, the culture is Mexican, and the second and later native born generations have long since moved to the suburbs and intermarried, and return once a year for the Santa Lucia festival (which has itself moved!) and spaghetti feeds at St Frances Cabrini parish.

  4. Terry Maher (Past Elder)
    January 10th, 2012 at 01:03 | #4

    BTW, even the “red hat” itself ain’t what it used to be. The traditional galero — well traditional since 1245 when Pope Innocent IV first gave them out — got boofed at Vatican II, in favour of what you see pictured, a biretta (not to be confused with Beretta, Pastor!) which is worn by any Catholic clergy and distinguished by colour: cardinals, red; bishops, purple; priests and all others, black.

  5. Rev. Timothy Drawbaugh
    January 10th, 2012 at 04:00 | #5

    Actually, I think Rev. Likeness has a point in his closing sentence: “Benedict XVI is reversing a trend to solidify his theological views.”

    Which is not all that bad, considering that the former John Paul II was overly pro-Mariology whereas Benedict XVI is more Christo-centric. If one were to read Ratzinger in detail, the difference is readily apparent. Case in point is his proclamation of “The Year of Faith” for the purpose of ‘…to help the church focus its attention on “Jesus Christ and the beauty of having faith in him”‘. One may also note his two volume work on the life of Jesus.

    Make no mistake, there are still items of confessing ‘faith’ which the Catholic church professes and which separate us Lutherans from them. A perusal of the Catechism of the Catholic Church will suffice.

    However, the point I want to make here is that perhaps countries in South America, Africa, and also like China, there is a tendency to incorporate the native religious superstitions and beliefs. Whereas those closest in the Vatican perhaps realize that is not an appropriate road. (Another example would be how JP II and B XVI conducted the World Day of Prayer at Assisi. There is a stark difference, take a look.)

    So if it is a reversal of JP II, it is a welcome reversal.

  6. Ted Badje
    January 10th, 2012 at 05:41 | #6

    John Paul II espoused theology that could be best described as Universalist, where Benedict is more Tridentine, holding the RC church is the only true church.

  7. Rev. Allen Bergstrazer
    January 10th, 2012 at 07:51 | #7

    @Terry Maher (Past Elder)
    Terry, I think brother Paul Mcain is more of a Colt 1911 sort of guy, though I’d take a Beretta 92 over a Biretta 1962 any day. Couldn’t help but think when I saw that picture that it looked like the holy father had ordered out for chinese.

    Joking aside, your point is well taken, the predominat culture from whence the next papal candidate comes from will soon be post concilliar, which in some circles is considered a completely different church, (and in others historically and theologically illegitimate). The difference be significant, and probably why Benedict is stacking his deck of cardinals.

  8. Terry Maher (Past Elder)
    January 10th, 2012 at 08:48 | #8

    Well Pastor B, stacking the deck would be right in line with the red hat, be it galero or re biretta. The story is, old Innocent gave them to his supporters at the Council of Lyons so he could tell at a glance in the crowd who was backing him!

  9. Mrs. Hume
    January 10th, 2012 at 14:14 | #9

    The priest in the picture is kinda cute. Makes me sad to think he has no wife. Poor guy. As a mother of boys, I can’t help but see these things. Goofy, but still.

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